Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, a former WWF Tag Team Champion and father to current Monday Night Raw superstar Natalya, has reportedly passed away at the age of 63, according to a Twitter post from friend and colleague Brian Blair.
“It is with a sad heart, that I share with you the passing of a long time friend and colleague, Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart. Your thoughts and prayers for the family are appreciated!” wrote Blair, who wrestled as one-half of the Killer Bees, a team that had a memorable feud in the 1980s with the Hart Foundation, Neidhart’s tag team with WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart.
A report from TMZ suggested that Neidhart’s cause of death might have been related to a fall at his home in Florida, as emergency medical personnel were called at around 6:30 a.m. to assist a male victim who was having “seizures and convulsions.” Representatives from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office told the publication that Neidhart “fell at home, hit his head, and succumbed to his injury,” and that no foul play was suspected.
Born James Henry Neidhart in Tampa, Florida, on February 8, 1955, the future “Anvil” grew up in California, where he emerged as a high school track and field star and set a state shot put record in 1973, according to Slam Sports Wrestling. As a young adult, he was a practice player for the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys, but after failing to make either team’s regular season lineup, he tried to make his name in professional wrestling, where he was trained in Calgary by legendary grappler and Stampede Wrestling promoter Stu Hart. Originally nicknamed “The Animal,” Neidhart got his more familiar nickname after an impressive anvil-tossing feat at the Calgary Stampede festival, according to WrestlingFigs.
During his time in Calgary, Neidhart became close friends with the Hart family, marrying Stu Hart’s oldest daughter Ellie in the early 1980s. The couple had three daughters, including middle child Natalie, who would later on be known in WWE as Natalya.
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart made his debut for the company then known as WWF in 1985, as he and brother-in-law Bret “The Hitman” Hart teamed up with the unrelated Jimmy Hart and formed the Hart Foundation. With Jimmy serving as manager, Bret as the technician, and the 280-pound Neidhart as the team’s muscle, the Hart Foundation was one of the WWF’s top tag teams of the mid-late 1980s, feuding with the British Bulldogs and the aforementioned Killer Bees, among other teams, as villains, and with teams such as Demolition and the Rougeau Brothers after they turned babyface in 1988. Together, the Hitman and the Anvil won two WWF Tag Team Championships as the Hart Foundation.
In the 1990s, Neidhart had multiple stints in the WWF, teaming up with Bret’s youngest brother, Owen Hart, as the “New Foundation,” wrestling under a mask under the ring name “Who,” and returning under his real name in 1997 as Bret and Owen reformed the Hart Foundation as a villainous faction. As pointed out by Uproxx, Bret Hart is now that version of the group’s last surviving member, as Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, and Davey Boy Smith all passed away between 1997 and 2002.
After leaving WWF in 1997, Neidhart briefly competed in WCW and later on in TNA, but became a familiar figure for many present-day wrestling fans as a regular guest on Total Divas, as many episodes of the long-running E! reality series focused on main cast member Natalya’s relationship with her parents.
In the aftermath of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart’s passing, several prominent figures in the world of wrestling have taken to social media to remember the late grappler. Bret Hart tweeted that he is “stunned and saddened” by the loss of his longtime friend and brother-in-law, while 16-time world champion and two-time WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair called the Anvil a “world class athlete and a man among men.” As of this writing, neither Natalya nor her husband, retired WWE superstar and longtime Hart family friend Tyson Kidd (real name Theodore “TJ” Wilson), have issued a statement on the matter.